Jammu and Kashmir Governor does well to retract his ‘kill’ statement

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Published: July 23, 2019 2:00:44 AM

Militancy does get some kind of justification, even if incorrectly, in the eyes of the populace if the government is not delivering even basic services; and this is certainly the case in large parts of Jammu & Kashmir.

Governor Malik has done the right thing, finally, in making a distinction between his personal view and the official view since, had he not done so, the implications would have been quite serious.

Most people would be appalled at, among so many other innocents, the senseless killing of personal security officers (PSOs) of various Kashmir politicians over the years. They would be equally horrified at the brazen loot of public money; as compared to several other parts of the country, an even smaller fraction of the money sent by the central government finds its way on to projects on the ground in Jammu & Kashmir. And if you were in charge of trying to fix things in a state, as the BJP is trying, this is very frustrating. Militancy does get some kind of justification, even if incorrectly, in the eyes of the populace if the government is not delivering even basic services; and this is certainly the case in large parts of Jammu & Kashmir.

There was, however, absolutely no justification for someone holding the highest constitutional office in the state, like Governor Satya Pal Malik, saying as he did, over the weekend, that militants would do better by killing those who had looted Kashmir instead of innocents like PSOs. Given the implications of this statement, it is just as well that Governor Malik has now retracted his statement and said that whatever he said was in a fit of anger and frustration—“due to the rampant corruption here”—but that, despite this, he should not have made the statement.

Governor Malik has done the right thing, finally, in making a distinction between his personal view and the official view since, had he not done so, the implications would have been quite serious. The original statement could be construed to suggest—that is why Malik retracted it—for instance, that were militants to start killing Kashmir politicians, the Governor would find it acceptable and, perhaps, even grant a pardon! Apart from the question of how courts would deal with a fairly obvious incitement to violence, would militants killing politicians make their demands any less unacceptable? Indeed, were others holding constitutional positions to articulate such views, this will open the doors, even if inadvertently, to vigilantism of the worst sort. Today, it is some of Kashmir’s politicians, but this could be extended to politicians across the country; several of them have, like some of their Kashmiri counterparts, looted the country’s exchequer.

And why stop at politicians? The same logic can be extended to several bureaucrats who can just as easily be accused of stealing money as they can of not delivering satisfactory services to the very public that is paying their salaries; is bumping them off a lesser crime for this reason? Those holding high offices need to be very cautious given the consequences and implications of what they say; the Governor Malik saga should be a lesson for everyone.

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